Adio Kuumba Akil stands 5 feet tall with a gargantuan persistence that brought herbal medicine specialist Dr. Sebi and his cures for cancer and sickle cell anemia to scores of people in the U.S. Knowledge of Sebi healing women of cysts and cancer without surgery convinced her to pave a path for him from St. Croix’s Garden Holistic Institute, where she met him, to a larger platform on the mainland. Cities on the East Coast were mainstays on Sebi’s speaking circuit, the Community Warehouse in Washington, D.C., was a frequent venue. But on the anniversary of Sebi’s death (Aug. 6), two things come to light: his reluctance to practice natural healing on a large scale in the U.S., and why Akil, facing Sebi’s staunch resistance, insisted on having him here anyway.
“I held Dr. Sebi in great esteem,” said Akil from her home in Brooklyn. “And because of what I learned from him in St. Croix. I said ‘Come to the states. We need this information in the states.’ And I knew because of my own issue with the cysts in my breast and also because I knew of other young women who had them in their breasts or female organs. He had been helping to heal people of some of the basic illnesses like colds, and because he was helping people get rid of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, I was like, ‘You’ve got to come.’”
In the early 1980s, Akil managed public events on the top floor of the Community Warehouse, a food co-op in D.C. Her late husband, Adisa Kuumba, helped manage the sale of natural foods and herbs on the first level. “Sebi was there on and off for three years and actually staying at the warehouse,” Akil reminisced. “He had his own room there. Sebi prepared herbs when he was at the warehouse and he also taught workshops about how to prepare herbs.”
“It was a great co-op,” said Duku, owner of the Blue Nile, a botanicals store now celebrating 40 years of selling herbs and books on Georgia Avenue in D.C. “That’s where I bought my herbs wholesale. Whatever herbs the warehouse didn’t have, Dr. Sebi bought them from me.”
Yet before buying any herbs from the Blue Nile or the Community Warehouse, Sebi would have to get back to the U.S.
In the late 1970s and early ’80s, the ideals of the Black consciousness movement lingered in Black American communities, but by 1982, when Sebi met Akil, he shunned the idea of branching out with his compounds and practice in those places. Recounting those days while retired in Honduras, Central America, he said, “I was reluctant to go to the United States because when I began healing in Los Angeles, I noticed that there were many other healers besides myself that were practicing herbology, and I heard of many more in New York. I was not encouraged to come because of the fierce competition among healers all over the United States. Not only that, I noticed a lot of the American healers were recommending vitamins, enzymes and proteins, as well as many herbs that are artificial or hybrids.”